The first step towards early elections in Portugal has been taken this afternoon in the Assembly of the Republic, where the State Budgets for 2022 were overthrown with the rejection of the right and the left. The prime minister, António Costa, only managed to add five abstentions to the 108 affirmative votes of the socialist group, insufficient compared to the 117 negative votes of the opposition, a heterogeneous set of seven formations that included the Bloco de Esquerda (BE) and the Communist Party of Portugal (PCP), former allies of Costa, to the extreme right of Chega. Finally, there were no leaks in the ranks of the Social Democratic Party (PSD, center-right, main opposition force), whose 79 deputies voted against, including the three Madeira parliamentarians, who on Tuesday offered to negotiate their support for the Government in exchange of measures for the autonomous region.
In his last speech in the Chamber before the vote, António Costa acknowledged that the rejection of his former partners is “a personal defeat” that causes him frustration. “I was born on the left, I was raised on the left and the left is my family. I believe that it has what is essential to build the future and that it is not condemned to protest ”, he defended before censoring the political effects that the vote will have. “The last thing Portugal needs is this crisis and in these circumstances,” he lamented. But already thinking about the polls, he asked for “a reinforced majority” from all voters in the lowonça, inaugurated in 2015 with the agreement between all the forces of the left.
Perhaps the headline that best summarizes the stupor caused by a political crisis that almost no one glimpsed a month ago was given on Tuesday by Inês Sousa Real, the leader of Pessoas-Animais-Natureza (PAN), the only formation that abstained this afternoon together to two non-attached deputies: “Joining a budget crisis to an unprecedented health crisis is most irresponsible, and has real consequences for people’s lives and for the future of the country.” Her vehemence in defending the Budget was reciprocated with similar energy from the Socialist bench, who interrupted her with applause on several occasions. “Opposing is not just being against it,” he proclaimed.
This Wednesday’s session found how little edifying divorces are. After six years of complicity between the left, the most bitter reproaches were exchanged between socialists and blocists, between whom the distance has been widening since 2019. If this morning the socialist parliamentary leader, Ana Catarina Mendes, accused the BE of falsifying and lying in its In his account of the budget negotiations, the head of the Bloco’s parliamentary group, Pedro Filipe Soares, criticized the “arrogance” of the government, which he accused of allowing a political crisis to maintain the labor measures adopted by the troika. “These Budgets do not have anything left,” the Bloco leader, Catarina Martins, snapped in the afternoon session, reproaching Costa for not having brought anything new to the parliamentary debate. In his speech, its leader Rui Rio described a bleak economic outlook and accused the Government of being “from the beginning of the pandemic, waiting for the European miracle.”
It will now be the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who will have to decide whether to dissolve Parliament and call elections or allow the continuity of the Government of António Costa, politically weakened by today’s defeat and economically bound by the prohibition of spending monthly in 2022 exceeds one twelfth of the budget executed in 2021. Despite this, Costa has stated that he will not resign due to responsibility. And the same parties of the left that have knocked down their budgets have expressed their rejection of the electoral call and have defended that the Socialist Executive be allowed time to draw up a new budget.
All the statements made by Rebelo de Sousa so far point to the electoral advance, although before making a decision, he will hold a round of consultations with parties, social agents and the Council of State. The contacts will begin today with the Prime Minister and the President of the Assembly of the Republic, Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues. Since the Chamber dissolves, the law requires elections to be held between 55 and 60 days later. If Rebelo de Sousa approves the dissolution next week, the campaign and the elections would fall squarely in the Christmas holidays. In his statements to the press this afternoon, Rebelo de Sousa refused to reveal what his final decision will be and considered “a lost time” the period that the country goes without public accounts. “I would prefer that there were State Budgets, but the sovereign decision is of the Assembly,” he commented.
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Country elections and PSD primaries
The crisis that was not seen coming has dislodged almost the entire political class, which reluctantly faces an electoral appointment in the middle of the legislature. In this shaky terrain, the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, has been questioned for receiving in an audience on Tuesday the candidate to lead the PSD, MEP Paulo Rangel. Upon his arrival at the Assembly this morning, Rui Rio, current president of the center-right party and candidate for reelection, censured this meeting, which he learned from the press: “I have the utmost respect for the President of the Republic, but not it is minimally acceptable for the Head of State to receive a potential candidate ”. And he added: “If they had dealt with the legislative and PSD primaries, we would be conditioning the country to the primaries of one party.” The PSD internal vote is scheduled for December 4, which would force the party to attend a strange coexistence between two candidates (Rio and Rangel) who would have to carry out two campaigns at the same time, the internal one for the leadership and the external one. to dispute the victory to the Socialist Party. If the congressional calendar set for January is not modified, it would be possible that the Portuguese elections would be held before the PSD, the alternative to the Costa Government, elects its new leadership. To avoid this, Paulo Rangel has gathered signatures to hold an extraordinary congress that will allow the renewal of the party leadership to be brought forward to December.